Husband puts off retirement to afford wife's Alzheimer's care

The toll of Alzheimer's disease on caregivers

Nearly 16 million Americans are caring for a family member or friend who has Alzheimer's disease, a brain disorder that slowly destroys memory and the ability to carry out simple tasks.

A new study looked at the sacrifices unpaid caregivers are making, and found that some are giving up their own basic needs.

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Mark is the sole caregiver for his wife Carol, who has Alzheimer's disease CBS News

When we first met Mike and Carol Daly eight years ago, Mike was the sole caregiver after her Alzheimer's diagnosis. He often took her to work with him.

Today, at age 73, he's still working. But now, as Carol declines, a health care worker cares for her during the day.

He said if he wanted to retire, he couldn't afford to care for Carol.

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"That's my fear, I could not swing it financially. I would have to dedicate my whole life to taking care of Carol, because I wouldn't be able to afford home care. Not enough money."

Wednesday's survey documented the financial sacrifices Alzheimer's caregivers are often forced to make.

Beth Kallmyer with the Alzheimer's Association said the participants were having to make difficult choices in order to make it.

"They were having to make choices about putting food on the table, or going to the doctor, or taking money out of their retirement funds in order to make sure the person had care."

The survey also found almost half of caregivers were forced to cut back on their own expenses. For Mike, that means working and saving so Carol can stay in their home.

The alternative would be to put Carol in a nursing home, which Mike says he just can't do

"I have an obligation to her, the love I have for her," he said, crying. "I can't abandon her."

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The cost of caring for someone with Alzheimer's is a lot more than financial.

"I'm dying, I really think I am," Mike said. "My blood pressure is like 200 over 100. They wanted to put me in the hospital. I can't go in the hospital ... What do I do with Carol?"

His blood pressure is now under control with increased medication.

According to the Alzheimer's Association, about 2 of 3 people incorrectly believe that Medicare may or will help them cover nursing home costs. That may help explain why only about 3 percent of U.S. adults have insurance for long-term care.

  • Jon Lapook
    Jonathan LaPook

    Dr. Jonathan LaPook is the chief medical correspondent for the CBS Evening News. Follow him on Twitter at @DrLaPook